Buddhism Without Beliefs
A Contemporary Guide to Awakening
by Stephen Batchelor
Bloomsbury, 1997, £9.99
Buddhism Without Beliefs is written for a popular audience, and succeeds in communicating Batchelor’s personal approach to western Buddhism. Rather than describing beliefs or practices, he evokes a modern, western ‘Buddhist’ mentality through creating a dramatised authorial self – which passes through the experience of awareness, emptiness, freedom and so on. Batchelor thereby projects himself as an agnostic, post-modern Everyman – and this perspective is evoked with such power, lucidity and feeling that the reader feels compelled to identify with it. Of course, this is rhetoric not argument, and those who feel Batchelor reduces Buddhism to humanism by excluding the possibility of experience that transcends reason, or faith that anticipates experience, will find his approach coercive and disingenuous. But Batchelor writes better prose than any other modern Buddhist and, within its limitations, his thinking has a cogency that will ensure its influence.